Signs of the Times

Cardinal Says Homosexuals Should Not Be Ordained

A Vatican congregation, in response to a query by a bishop, said men who are homosexuals or have homosexual tendencies should not be ordained priests. Ordaining such candidates to the priesthood would be imprudent and “very risky,” said a letter from Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez, who at the time was prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. Cardinal Medina’s letter, published in December in the congregation’s bulletin, was written last May to an unnamed bishop who had inquired about the propriety of ordaining homosexual men. The cardinal retired as congregation head in October.

The bishop originally had sent his question to the Congregation for Clergy, which passed it on to the congregation for sacraments. After consulting with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Medina expressed “the following judgment” in a three-paragraph letter:


The ordination to the diaconate or to the priesthood of homosexual persons or those with a homosexual tendency is absolutely inadvisable and imprudent and, from a pastoral point of view, very risky.... A person who is homosexual or has homosexual tendencies is not, therefore, suitable to receive the sacrament of sacred orders.

Cardinal Medina wrote that in making its judgment the congregation took into consideration its experience in processing requests for laicization by some priests.

The letter touched on an issue that has received increasing attention at the Vatican. In October, sources told Catholic News Service that the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education was quietly circulating a draft document containing proposed directives against the admission of homosexuals to the priesthood. The sources said part of the reasoning in the draft document was that since the church considers the homosexual orientation as “objectively disordered,” such people should not be admitted to the seminary or ordained.

The Vatican press office later confirmed that a document was in the works, but said it also would look at other ordination issues and be addressed primarily to local bishops and seminary rectors. Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, head of the education congregation, said in November that he would not comment on the reports until, and if, a document is published. He offered no target date.

Last year Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation, said in a CNS interview, “Persons with a homosexual inclination should not be admitted to the seminary.”

Caritas Examines Curbs on Corruption in Humanitarian Aid

Top Catholic aid officials meeting at the Vatican wrestled with two growing problems faced by humanitarian assistance organizations: controlling corruption and avoiding the “militarization” of aid.

The topics were main agenda items at a late-November meeting of the executive committee of Caritas Internationalis, a global confederation of Catholic aid agencies.

Duncan MacLaren, Caritas secretary-general, told Catholic News Service that “sadly, corruption is a growing problem” for all humanitarian agencies, including the worldwide network of Caritas offices. “The good thing is that there is more open debate on this. In the past, the subject was very much taboo,” MacLaren said. After a workshop on the issue, Caritas is planning to draw up guidelines against corruption sometime next year, he said.

In recent years, lending organizations have been more insistent that recipient countries demonstrate transparency in the management of assistance funds. But Georg Cremer, secretary general of Caritas Germany, said corruption is a worldwide problem that can strike anywhere in the aid process. “Obviously, corruption is not exclusively a phenomenon of developing countries,” he said. But its effect is the heaviest in poorer countries, in part because the cost of kickbacks, bribes and other forms of corruption greatly increases the cost of development projects.

When he was a development worker in Indonesia, Cremer said, it was estimated that 20 percent to 30 percent of the public development expenditures were lost through misappropriation. He cited a number of common forms of corruption in aid projects: the purchase of excessively expensive project material in order to deliver a commission to selected suppliers; interest earned on aid funds when projects are artificially delayed; the reselling of relief items to traders; hush money for quality control inspectors; and the awarding of jobs to relatives by project leaders.

Already in 1999, Caritas Internationalis adopted a set of “minimum standards,” which included clear indications on budgetary planning and management, to ensure transparency in their projects. Cremer said external auditing and external supervisory panels eventually should become standard procedures, too. At the same time, accountability can sometimes become too petty or stringent—as when one donor agency required a detailed cost breakdown of the food given to a project’s watchdog.

MacLaren said one factor contributing to minor corruption in humanitarian projects worldwide is the underpaying of relief workers, who are then tempted to skim some of the assistance material. He said it was important for organizations like Caritas to recognize that most of its local people are well-educated professionals and, in the case of lay people, need a decent wage to maintain their families.

The problem of militarization of aid is somewhat new ground for Caritas and other relief organizations. MacLaren said it was clear from recent wars in Kosovo and Afghanistan that there is increasing crossover between military forces and aid groups, situations in which the two are called upon to work together and even where military personnel are being used for humanitarian projects. But armies are not primarily humanitarian organizations, and in many places are not viewed by local people as the proper channel for such relief.

“We need to know, where are the barriers?” he said. There is a danger of becoming too cozy with the military, he pointed out. Recently, he said, a NATO official proposed closer collaboration with Caritas and offered to take Caritas personnel on training and maneuvers. Caritas was reluctant to enter into that kind of relationship and said it would have to look at it closely.

Trust in Priests and Clergy Falls 26 Points in 12 Months

The Harris Poll reports a “huge drop in confidence in priests and the clergy,” which, it says, “is almost surely the result of the continuing scandals of sexual abuse and the way complaints have been handled by the churches and bishops involved.” A year ago, 90 percent of adults felt that they could generally trust the clergy to tell the truth. This has fallen 26 points to 64 percent. Last year, clergy were at the top of a list of 17 occupations as being most trusted. This year they rank below teachers, doctors, professors, police officers and scientists. They were on a par with ordinary people, civil servants, President Bush, military officers and judges, but ranked higher than accountants, bankers, journalists, lawyers, members of Congress, trade union leaders, business leaders and pollsters.

News Briefs

• In a pastoral letter, California’s Catholic bishops said the church faces a wave of sexual abuse lawsuits because of a new state law that suspends the statute of limitations in many abuse cases for one year beginning Jan. 1.

• In response to a Vatican request, U.S. Catholic magazine reprinted two Vatican documents on the ordination of women in its December issue. Claretian Father Mark J. Brummel, the magazine’s editor, said the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith requested the clarification of “the church’s teaching on the inadmissibility of ordaining women to the Catholic priesthood” in response to “a U.S. Catholic article that had touched on the issue.” The original article, written by assistant editor Heidi Schlumpf and published in February 2001, featured the faith and life stories of five women who believed they were called to Catholic priesthood. J. Augustine DiNoia, the American Dominican priest who is under secretary of the doctrinal congregation, said that members of the congregation “absolutely do pay attention to the Catholic press” and to the content of publications sponsored by religious orders.

African Food Crisis So Severe That Famine Looms

The food crisis in Africa is so severe that an immediate international response is needed to prevent a famine greater than mid-1980’s levels, said heads of leading U.S. humanitarian aid organizations. A coalition of 15 aid organizations, meeting at Catholic Relief Services headquarters in Baltimore, Md., said some 38 million Africans risk starvation unless the international community mobilizes quickly. “If we wait until we start seeing pictures of emaciated, starving people, by then it will be too late,” said Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Speakers at the press conference on Dec. 3 said a famine could be declared in some areas as early as late January and that millions of Africans could die from starvation in the next six to eight months.

Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe is using the food crisis to force people to vote for the ruling party, said Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Throughout the country people are required to show ruling-party membership cards before they can buy corn, Archbishop Ncube said. Many people have two cards, he said, one for the ruling ZANU-P.F. and the other showing membership of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. As food becomes increasingly scarce, only those with ZANU-P.F. cards can obtain something to eat. In addition, opposition supporters are refused attention at health facilities and service at stores, he said. “Men, women and children were, and still are, being deliberately starved,” Archbishop Ncube said.

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